Dear Joan Actually,
So, I’ve been dating this girl for a few months, and we’ve been getting along great but she doesn’t understand what ‘me time’ is. I feel like it’s hard to ask for space without her thinking that I’m trying to push her away. I want her to know that she isn’t a problem and it’s nothing personal. Sometimes, I just need to sit on the couch and relax–alone. If I have a crazy week or a really social weekend, I need time to recharge. It’s not that she’s stressing me out, it’s that I just want to zone out sometimes. How do I say I need space without giving the wrong impression?
Asking for space shouldn’t be problematic, but for new couples or for couples who have already established a routine, asking could mean that something isn’t right. That’s not your situation, but for your date on the receiving end, it’s harder to know for sure. A simple request for space can morph into a bigger discussion if there’s a lack of context. To save yourself—and your date—the extra headache, spend a little more time finessing the request.
Here’s how to ask for space without pushing her away:
Reassure Your Partner
Telling your lady friend that you need space can trigger some insecurity; she might wonder if she did something wrong or if you’re losing interest. Help her avoid unnecessary anxiety with some reassurance.
“My boss has me on call these days, so I’m going to be a little MIA until the end of the month. Definitely bummed I won’t be seeing you after work.”
“We need to plan something next week, because I’m not going to get to see much of you while I study for the bar.”
Reassurance can come in two ways: affirmation or future plans. For maximum effect, combine the two.
“I’m going to miss you while I head home to deal with some family stuff, but I know we’re going to have fun celebrating your birthday next week.”
The more reassurance you provide on the front end, the more likely you’ll receive all the space you need without problems.
Although you shouldn’t need to explain why you need space, doing so could help you avoid hurting her feelings and help you two get closer. If you can give your partner additional context for needing space, you should. You don’t need to get into the details, but attributing your need for space to, say, ‘some family stuff back home’ is better than no explanation at all.
Whether you’re anticipating long work hours for a couple weeks or handling an emotionally heavy family issue, let her know what a relationship with you is going to look like. If it’s just space on an as needed basis, let her know in advance. The goal is to avoid asking for space after she’s made plans to be with you.
Watch Your Language
Avoid words like clingy, smothering, or obsessive. You’ll compromise your chemistry if you make her feel ashamed of all the attention you’ve been receiving. Your best approach is to focus on the space you need, not how the lack of space makes you feel.
If you’ve modified the way you’re asking for space and are still finding yourself in the doghouse, you might be dealing with a clingy girlfriend. I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, you’ll need to decide how much you value your personal space.